18 November 2014

RMIT industry seminar shines spotlight on safety in design

RMIT’s Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research recently hosted an industry seminar to discuss current approaches and research outcomes in safety in design.

The seminar, held on 27 August 2014, attracted high interest, with attendance from many different segments and disciplines within the construction industry.


Dr Michael Behm, Associate Professor of Occupational Safety at East Carolina University (USA) and a leading international safety expert, presented aspects of his ongoing research addressing safety challenges in the design of urban greenery systems.

Dr Behm challenged the audience to view safety in design from the perspective of a ‘hierarchy of ideas’ and use this concept to develop innovative approaches during the design phase to address potential safety hazards that may be encountered by people working with and maintaining the completed structure.

Dr Behm’s visit to Melbourne was sponsored through an RMIT Foundation International Visiting Fellowship.


Professor Helen Lingard shared findings of a recent project conducted by the Centre in collaboration with researchers at Virginia Tech (USA).

The research considered the effectiveness of safety solutions implemented within several case studies from both Australia and the United States.

For the research, each solution was assigned a score based on the hierarchy of control measure applied. A high score was assigned where a hazard was eliminated (or an ‘engineered’ solution applied), whereas administrative safety controls received a lower score.

Results indicated that greater opportunity exists to implement more effective safety hazard controls earlier in the design stage of a project.

The study will culminate in the production of a Research-to-Practice guide for industry, due for publication in mid 2015. For more information about this project please download a copy of the Safety in Design Research Summary Report (PDF 205 KB).


Professor Nick Blismas presented a current research project that investigates the use of an innovative knowledge capture tool to record and present information on safety risks that may be encountered during construction of specific building structural elements.

The knowledge is categorised and presented in the form of a ‘knowledge tree’.

It is anticipated that this approach could provide designers with an effective decision-making tool to develop their understanding of construction process safety issues and to help them address safety issues during design.

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